NI Adult Safeguarding

SECTION E: Prevention in Adult Safeguarding

Recruitment, Selection and Management of Parish Staff and Volunteers and Access NI Responsibilities

Key areas:

  • The importance of good recruitment, selection and management procedures
  • Summary of the process of recruiting staff and volunteers working with adults at risk and in need of protection
  • Managing the roles
  • Complaints and grievances

The importance of good recruitment, selection and management procedures

Best safeguarding practice by the Church in respect of convicted child sex offenders requires that they should not hold representational roles as this can be perceived to convey a position of authority by other members of the Church, both children and adults.  This can be particularly sensitive and potentially hurtful for anyone who has been harmed by a sex offender.

An individual who has been the victim of a sexual offence may have to manage lifelong consequences arising from that harm and their needs should be prioritised.  It is therefore regarded as inappropriate that someone with a conviction for a sexual offence would hold any role on a decision-making body in the Diocese or in Church leadership of any sort, even when that role does not involve contact with children.

Good recruitment, selection and management procedures will:

  • Help screen out and discourage those who are not suitable from joining your organisation
  • Ensure clergy, paid staff and volunteers have clear rules and boundaries and feel supported in their roles
  • Assure relevant carers that all possible measures are being taken to ensure only suitable people will be recruited to work with adults at risk or in need of protection

Summary of the process of recruiting staff and volunteers working with adults at risk or in need of protection

Recruitment and selection procedures must be applied equally to all staff and volunteers and this includes:

  • Those who have been part of the parish for many years and are taking up a new role with adults at risk or in need of protection

The following steps are necessary to ensure good practice:

Defining a role
A role description should be drawn up for volunteers. This can be done generically for volunteer roles within the parish.

For a paid role a specific job description should be created.

Advertising a role
Paid roles must be advertised as per employment good practice. For volunteers, an announcement in church or in the parish magazine may be sufficient.

Application Form
All applicants must be asked to complete an application form relevant to the extent of the role being undertaken.

All applicants are asked to sign a declaration stating that there is no reason why they would be considered unsuitable to work with adults at risk or in need of protection.

All potential staff and volunteers must be interviewed by the Incumbent and at least one member of the Select Vestry sometimes in conjunction with other relevant individuals such as the Leader- in-Charge or external persons with relevant qualifications/experience. The level of formality of an interview should reflect the role being undertaken. An interview for a pastoral visitor should be fairly informal; however, an interview for a paid member of staff should be more formal and comply with employment regulations.

If a role is a diocesan level role then potential staff members and volunteers must be interviewed by the Diocesan Adult Safeguarding Panel.

References should be taken up from at least two people who are not family members and, ideally, one of whom should have first-hand knowledge of the applicant’s previous work or contact with adults at risk or in need of protection. References should be taken up in writing and should be followed up orally.

Disclosure Check
If a person is seeking work or volunteering in a regulated activity, defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007, as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the organisation is required by law to carry out an Enhanced Disclosure with Barred List Check. This check will be carried out by Access NI.

A definition of ‘regulated activity’ can be found on: Northern Ireland – AccessNI check

As this process can change, follow the latest procedure outlined on the Safeguarding Trust website:

Please note that a member of staff or volunteer cannot begin work until they have obtained a satisfactory Access NI check. This also applies to bishops and clergy and they must have a satisfactory Access NI check prior to ordination and/or installation and/or the granting of a licence to officiate or permission to officiate.

Record Keeping
Details of the selection and recruitment procedure should be recorded and securely stored as per current data protection regulations.

Ratifying the Appointment
At the conclusion of the selection and recruitment process the Select Vestry recommends an individual for taking up a post or role. A contract of employment (in the case of a member of staff) or a volunteer agreement (in the case of a volunteer) is signed by the individual and Incumbent on behalf of the Select Vestry. A contract of employment with a paid member of staff should be drawn up by the parish solicitors.

Staff or Volunteers from Abroad
Background checks are not possible for many overseas applicants. Staff and volunteers from abroad may produce certificates of good conduct from their home church or statutory agencies in their country of origin. Such certificates must be treated with extreme caution as there is no way to confirm their validity. As with any other criminal conviction certificate, it can only provide ‘known’ information.

Panels must make every effort to verify the suitability of candidates by careful use of references and interview. NB What constitutes an offence in the UK (and would be seen as abuse of adults) may not elsewhere. References, from abroad, therefore need to be viewed with this in mind.

It is strongly advisable also to require candidates to sign a sworn declaration that there is nothing in their background which would prevent their working with adults at risk or in need of protection.

Managing Staff and Volunteers
Good management of volunteers and paid staff will contribute to safe activities for all. Good management will also create an atmosphere where staff or volunteers feel valued, are listened to and where issues can be dealt with quickly by systems already in place.

Effective management for all staff and volunteers should include:

New staff and volunteers must have training provided by the Select Vestry that includes basic awareness and understanding of adult safeguarding issues. The training should explain the procedures and guidelines and also include an introduction to the activities and ethos of the group they have joined. Staff and volunteers should be made aware of what is expected and required of them and the boundaries or limits within which they must operate.

Probationary Period (Paid Staff) / Trial Period (Volunteers)
All appointments should be conditional on a satisfactory trial period of work. Every new post should be reviewed within an agreed period of time, usually six months.

It is good practice to set up a supervision system for paid staff and volunteers, which means a supervisor arranging to see staff and volunteers at regular intervals whether on their own or in small groups. This provides support for staff and volunteers and an opportunity to talk through any questions or difficulties they may have. It also gives the supervisor the opportunity to assess progress and whether any additional training should be provided. The supervisor must be the leader in charge of the group, the Incumbent or a member of the Select Vestry who has been given the responsibility by the Select Vestry.

Fixed Term
It may also be helpful to indicate a particular duration for a role, say 3-5 years, thus allowing a volunteer to step back with dignity if they wish rather than feeling that resignation might be misinterpreted.

Annual Appraisal (Staff) / Review (Volunteer)
The purpose of this is to review general performance and also give an opportunity to discuss any relevant changes in the personal circumstances of staff and volunteers. The appraisal/review also provides an opportunity to highlight any required future support or skills training. Parishes should aim to provide access to at least one training or development opportunity per year for each member of staff or volunteer.

Complaints and Grievances
Everyone has the right to complain or report a grievance. All people should be facilitated in raising a concern or complaint. Written complaint and grievance procedures should be in place and communicated to all associated with each organisation e.g. a complaints form, an anonymous comments box or a meeting with a Leader-in-Charge.

Everyone also has the right to appeal a decision made regarding a complaint or grievance. Parishes should consider how to facilitate this e.g. through a subcommittee of the Select Vestry. In certain circumstances Select Vestries may need to seek legal advice.

It is important that a complaint or grievance, which does not relate to abuse, can be dealt with in a separate procedure.

Grievance Procedure
This procedure is appropriate for all non-adult protection concerns regarding the conduct or practice of staff and volunteers conduct or practice. A grievance procedure should be included within a contract of employment of any paid member of staff.

Staff Records
It is best practice for written records to be kept of all training completed by staff and volunteers, support and supervision meetings held and all annual appraisals/reviews. Both parties should agree the content of the records and each should have a copy. These records should be stored confidentially and in line with the Church of Ireland data protection policy.